Cotton for President? Or Someone Like Him? Bush-Obama Views of 2016

03/13/2015 10:52 am ET | Updated May 12, 2015

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton is proudly covered in so much scorn from the left. Yet maybe Democrats should take a lesson from the boldness of the leader of the Iran 47. In fact, Democratic leaning Hal Goodtree, a publisher in North Carolina's Wake County, dreams of the emergence of a Democratic presidential candidate like Cotton--one who lacks the senator's ideology but wears his gall. "We need some electric out-of-nowhere crazy man, crazy person like that to get some excitement going," says Goodtree, publisher of The Cary Citizen, a community newspaper in the Bush-Obama county.

The opening of Campaign 2016 -- Iowa caucuses -- is less than a year away. Where was the American electoral mood at the comparable moment before Iowa in 2008? In March, 2007, there was Obama's audacity growing into his captivating competition against Hillary Clinton, an excitement that energized voters. Goodtree says voters in Wake, a Bush-Obama county, can't envision anything close to that mood. In fact, Democratic excitement about 2016 and the seemingly inevitable campaign of Hillary Clinton are, today, foreign concepts. "It's just hard to board the same train so many times when it has gone nowhere so many times before," says Goodtree.

"What about Joe Biden?" I ask.

"God, no. GOD, no. I don't think that he would have any traction."

When it comes to 2016, Goodtree says the Vice President or, "Uncle Joe," is a laughing stock.

Forget about Cotton when it comes to dreaming. Goodtree, like many Democrats, is really a man living with those Warren dreams. He wants the Massachussets senator to succumb to the praise and pressure and jump into the race. Of course, Warren dreamers are nationwide. They are abundant in places far away from Massachusetts and the liberal comforts of the Northeast. Take Harris County's Houston, Texas, the largest Bush-Obama city. "Elizabeth Warren, I would love to see her run," says Democrat Marcus Jensvold, retired owner of M.D. Jensvold & Co. and a Democratic donor who contributed to Obama's campaigns. He has not yet committed to a candidate. He is not excited about Clinton, but will support her if there is no other strong Democratic choice. "The email thing just seems kind of dumb, you think someone would have corrected that, a high government official can't be sending out unprotected emails. I would like to see other candidates come up. Nobody seems to be emerging at all... If the Republicans are smart and they bring a moderate in there, they can probably do pretty well."

Democrats need not feel alone as many Republican voters in Bush-Obama counties are as unenthused about the likely GOP names thrown around these days -- even with a more crowded field. "I will puke if it's another Clinton or Bush or a Clinton-Bush race," says Don Frantz, a Cary city council member who was a McCain delegate at the 2008 Republican convention. "I would not support any of those, probably would not even vote in that election if it was a Bush-Clinton. On the Republican side, I would say if I had to pick one at this time, I would say maybe a Scott Walker."

Frantz said he would even consider voting for a Democratic candidate if Jeb Bush were the nominee running against former Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. "I plan to research him," says Frantz.

In Ohio, Matt Reger, the Chair of Wood County's Republican party, has two potential Buckeye answers to those like Frantz who can't jump on another Bush train: Ohio Governor John Kasich, or Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman. "This morning I talked to a friend of mine, who's a Democrat, and we run together. And he said, 'Boy, I really love Rob Portman. If he was running I'd vote for him.' He's one of those senators who comes across really well-minded, and he just wants to get stuff done."

"Yeah, I think that either one of them has great qualities. Beyond being from Ohio, they're both practical-minded fiscal conservatives who've got proof in what they've done. Kasich is the governor of Ohio. He's been able to point out, 'Hey, I've balanced the budget. I've got a rainy day fund. I've got some...' Actually, I will say this, he's done criminal justice reform that, I haven't seen it for 20 years, criminal justice reform. As a prosecutor, I haven't seen it in a long time, and it was pretty innovative. For example, it's all derived from his basic business approach. He came up with the idea of allowing for the sealing of two offenses. Previously, you could only seal one offense. So let's say you've got an underage alcohol offense, and then maybe you've got a trespass or something. You're in college and you did something stupid, well, you couldn't seal that. Well, now you can. And he was looking at it from a purely business approach that, you know, some people have criminal records that are really old that are keeping them from getting jobs they really would be great at. So it's a minor thing, but it's kinda his way. The other thing that he did [was] that when a lot of other governors were on the bandwagon of drug testing people who were on welfare benefits, Kasich came out and said 'You know, a lot of people on welfare are trying to get off drugs, and sometimes they relapse. Testing them for drugs is not gonna help them.' I think he's got a compassionate side that really motivates him."

"Portman, In regards to the issue of homosexual marriage, he's come out and said, well, he's not done it for political reasons. And even the people who disagree with him on that particular issue say 'I respect him because of it.' He's come out and said, 'You know, my son is gay, and it would be wrong for me to come out against gay marriage when my son's gay.' So it's a personal thing, and he's been very honest about it as a personal thing and not doing it for political opportunism. So if you're talking about homosexual marriage, that's where Portman comes out on it. I guess I would say that the whole marriage issue, I don't see that being an issue in 2016. I'm sorry, I think that issue's gonna be done. I think the Supreme Court's gonna come out with an opinion, and it's gonna settle the issue. And in this country, we get done with an issue and we move past it. I really think that if the Democrats' position is [that they're] gonna bank on that particular social issue, they're not gonna win with that."

Even if his Ohio favorites do not find their way onto the GOP's ticket, the Republicans have one huge, inevitable advantage in 2016 -- they won't confront an opposing ticket with Obama at the top.